Things are starting to settle down for the Buffalo Sabres after being in the league’s spotlight for several weeks when they made a bold decision to fire nearly their entire management and scouting staffs and had multiple players publicly speak out about their disappointment and frustration with the team’s losing culture. In this edition of Sabres News and Rumors, I’ll be discussing some potential behind-the-scenes developments with John Chayka and Jack Eichel, as well as some unfortunate news regarding Sabres legends Eddie Shack and Dale Hawerchuk.
John Chayka Could Land in Buffalo
An announcement was made Sunday that “John Chayka [had] quit as the General Manager and President of Hockey Operations of the Arizona Coyotes.” The timing of this is very confusing as the Coyotes are about to begin their 2020 playoff campaign later this week as they take on the Nashville Predators in the qualifying round.
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Many people are speculating that Chayka could end up landing with the Sabres as they are currently in the midst of hiring candidates for their management and scouting teams. Chayka was previously a candidate for the Sabres’ general manager position three years ago, but the decision was ultimately made to hire Jason Botterill.
Chayka grew up in Jordan Station, just 40 minutes outside of Buffalo. It would not come as a surprise if he wanted to return home and take a position somewhere within the Sabres or Pegula Sports and Entertainment organization. Although the general manager position has already been filled with the hiring of Kevyn Adams, there may still be a few options for Chayka if he were interested in joining the Sabres.
One of the most intriguing potential roles he could fit is President of Hockey Operations, a position he had experience with in Arizona. The Sabres do not currently have anyone in this position, but Chayka would be a great candidate as he could prove very helpful to Adams who has taken on the general manager position with no former experience.
Eichel Trade Rumors Are Dead
After weeks of speculation, it appears that the Sabres’ 23-year-old captain is here to stay in Buffalo. Trade talks surrounding the young superstar centre have completely died down, especially after the Sabres’ house cleaning that saw 22 members of their organization fired. Kevyn Adams was named as Jason Botterill’s successor at the general manager position and made it a top priority to call Eichel and discuss his vision for the team on his first day on the job.
This is amazing news for Sabres fans. Eichel led the Sabres in almost every statistical category this season and averaged an outstanding 1.15 points per game with 78 points in 68 games. Last week, the NHL Network named Eichel as the 6th best centre in the NHL, a vast improvement from the previous season where he was ranked 15th. Eichel is still developing as one of the league’s top players and will continue to lead the Sabres for years to come.
Eddie Shack Passes Away at 83
The Sabres community lost a legend this past weekend as Eddie Shack passed away Saturday night at the age of 83. Shack was a four-time Stanley Cup champion and played two seasons in Buffalo from 1970 to 1972, the first two years of the team’s existence. In 111 games for the Sabres, he tallied 67 points (36 goals, 31 assists) and 127 penalty minutes.
“The Entertainer” was a fan-favourite in Buffalo and added a whole new level of excitement to the expansion team. He will be greatly missed and fondly remembered for his one-of-a-kind personality as one of the most colourful players in league history.
Dale Hawerchuk’s Cancer Has Returned
Early Sunday morning, Sabres legend Dale Hawerchuk’s eldest son, Eric Hawerchuk, broke the unfortunate news that his father’s cancer had returned. Hawerchuk finished his first battle with the disease in April, after completing his final round of chemotherapy. He was first diagnosed with stomach cancer last August.
The 57-year-old was inducted into Hockey Hall of Fame in his second year of eligibility in 2001 and coached the Barrie Colts in the OHL from 2010 until his cancer diagnosis in 2019, making him the longest-serving head coach in team history.
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He played five seasons for the Sabres from 1990 to 1995, tallying 385 points (110 goals, 275 assists) in 342 games. The Sabres community is keeping Hawerchuk in their thoughts and prayers in hopes of a speedy recovery and a return behind the bench soon.
What’s Next for the Sabres?
The Sabres are starting fresh under an almost entirely new set of management and scouting staffs and only time will tell how these bold moves work out for them. The on-ice talent is there, but the team has to figure out how to use their skill to their advantage and put together a winning season in 2020-21. If Adams and the Pegulas can build a strong off-ice foundation and the Sabres’ rising stars continue developing on the same upward trajectories, we could see Buffalo turn into a real threat very soon. If the cards are played right over the next few months, the sky’s the limit for the Sabres.